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Sermon Illustrations For Proper 14 | Ordinary Time 19 (2020)

Illustration
Genesis 37:1-4, 12-28
Martin Luther was a Roman Catholic monk who considered that the Church of Rome was corrupt. On October 31, 1517, he posted his famous 95 theses on the door of the church at Wittenberg, inviting a debate on the issues that concerned him. This led to the German Reformation, or better known to us as the Protestant Reformation.

In addition to Luther’s skills as a writer, bible translator, and preacher, he was also an amateur musician. He wrote thirty-seven hymns, the best known is “A Mighty Fortress is Our God.” Luther wrote the hymn sometime between 1521 and 1529.

These were some of the darkest years in Luther’s life. In August 1527, a man who followed Luther’s teaching was martyred. In the fall of 1527, a plague broke out in Wittenberg. In December 1527, a colleague wrote, “We are all in good health except for Luther himself, who is physically well, but outwardly the whole world and inwardly the devil and all his angels are making him suffer.” A few days later, in January 1528, Luther wrote that he was undergoing a period of temptation that was the worst he had experienced in his life.

The hymn was published in Augsburg in 1529. The original title was “A Hymn of Comfort.” The hymn is based on Psalm 46, and was intended to be a hymn of comfort, instead of a hymn of strength and fortitude against persecution as it is recognized by us today.

A mighty fortress is our God,
A bulwark never failing;
Our helper he amid the flood
Of mortal ills prevailing.
For still our ancient foe
Doth seek to work us woe;
His craft and power are great,
And armed with cruel hate,
On earth is not his equal.
Ron L.

* * *

Genesis 37:1-4, 12-28
Joseph is not the child of Jacob’s old age, despite what the text says. That would be Benjamin, the last child born to Rachel. But perhaps Benjamin is not the favorite because Rachel died giving birth to him.

As for Joseph, he comes off as something of a snitch. He is training to be a shepherd with the sons of Bilhah, but he makes trouble for them by telling tales about them. True or not, this did not make him popular.

We who know the whole story sometimes want to skip to the end. The mature Joseph who has suffered greatly and only after playing them like fools was finally willing to forgive his brothers for what they did to him. Even after the big reveal, when they all weep and hug and seem to be reconciled -- it’s not clear if Joseph will apologize for the way he acted, like telling on his brothers, or sharing his dreams when they made it clear that he, one of the youngest, would be the greatest one of all. Such a tangled blended family with different roots and branches was bound to struggle even in the best of circumstances.

Joseph did not deserve what his brothers did to him -- but they didn’t deserve the way he treated them either.
Frank R.

* * *

Genesis 37:1-4, 12-28
The small Bavarian town of Herzogenaurach might seem a sleepy backwater, but it's home to two of the world's top sportswear companies, thanks to a 60-year-old fight. The Dassler brothers, Rudolf and Adolf, were shoemakers. In 1936, the Dassler Brothers provided shoes for Jesse Owens in the Olympic Games. After World War II, though, their relationship fell apart. No one was ever quite sure why, but their shoe company and the town divided. Some in Herzogenaurach supported Adolf while others supported Rudolf. Their argument resulted in the creation of two sports giants, Puma and Adidas, both still based in the provincial town.

The brothers never did reconcile. While they are buried in the same cemetery, their graves are about as far apart as possible. Sibling rivalry is never good. Jacob saw it in his family, too. Favoritism breeds jealousy and resentment. Jealousy and resentment give birth to regrettable actions. At the end of this sad chapter, a father is devastated; a family is broken, and a young man is far from home. What was an ugly scene in Jacob’s family, however, God used for good.  It’s interesting to note that, recently, the grandson of Rudolf is working with the descendants of Adolf’s family at Adidas. Things can get better. God will do some restorative work in Jacob’s family, too.
Bill T.

* * *

Romans 19:5-15
As I read the Facebook posts, listen to the news, read online news reports, I become more and more distressed at the way we are divided, and not just our divisions, but the hate that seems to spew in the language across the divisions. While I certainly have my opinions and disagree with many others, I hope I do not spew hate. Paul reminds us, “For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all and is generous to all who call on him.” We are all children of God. We are all loved by God. Whether or not we agree with one another, what might happen if we looked at each other and saw Christ in each person we encountered, saw each person as a child of God? Martin Luther King stated, “Hate cannot drive out hate. Only love can do that.” Maybe love is the answer. No, certainly love is the answer!
Bonnie B.

* * *

Romans 10:5-15
John Wesley well describes the mess we are in without God’s forgiveness:

... hereby we are prone to all that is evil, and averse from all that is good; that we are full of pride, self-will, unruly passions, foolish desires, vile and inordinate affections; lovers of the world, lovers of pleasure more that lovers of God... (Works, Vol.5, p.73)

There is no preparation required for this gift. Again Wesley says it well:

Do not say, “But I am not contrite enough: I am not sensible enough of my sins.” I know it.  I would to God thou wert more sensible of them, more contrite a thousand fold than thou art.  But do not stay for this.  It may be, God will make thee, so, not before thou believest, but by believing.  It may be, thou wilt not weep much till thou lovest much because thou hast had much forgiven.  In the meantime, look unto Jesus.  Behold, how he loveth thee!  (Works, Vol.5, p.75)

No two ways about it.  When it comes to salvation, God does it all.  Even the confessing of Jesus to which Paul refers is the Word of God.  Jeanne Guyon, an 17th-century French woman who was a leader in the Jansenist Movement (dedicated to recovering Augustine’s insights for the Catholic Church) made a profound and comforting point:

So the soul does not trouble itself to seek anything or to do anything: that is, of itself, by itself, or for itself.  It remains as it is.  But what does it do?  Nothing – always nothing....  The difference is, that it is compelled to action by God without being conscious of it, whereas formerly it was nature that acted.  It seems to itself to do neither right nor wrong, but it lives satisfied, peaceful, doing what it is made to do in a steady and resolute manner.  (Amy Oden, ed., In Her Words, p.248)

In the same spirit Martin Luther once noted:

So no one is called a Christian because he does much, but because he receives something from Christ, draws from him and lets Christ only give to him.  (Complete Sermons, Vol.3/1, pp.329-330) 
Mark E.

* * *

Matthew 14:22-33
Arnold Palmer was one of the greatest golfers that ever lived. He once recalled the final hole of the 1961 Masters tournament. He had a one-stroke lead and had just hit a very satisfying tee shot and felt pretty good about his chances. As he approached his ball, he saw an old friend standing at the edge of the gallery. The friend motioned Palmer over, stuck out his hand and said, "Congratulations." Palmer took his hand and shook it.

As Palmer describes it, “As soon as I did, I lost my focus.”  His next two shots were terrible. The first, he hit into a sand trap. Then he put the second over the edge of the green. He then missed a putt and lost the Masters.

Palmer concluded, "You don't forget a mistake like that; you just learn from it and become determined that you will never do that again. I haven't in the thirty years since."

Losing focus was bad for Arnold Palmer and it was for Peter, too. Jesus came to the disciples walking on the water and called for Peter to come out to him. While his eyes were on Jesus, Peter walked on the water. When he focused on the storm, he began to sink. It’s a powerful example for us. Whatever storm might be raging in your life, if your focus is on Jesus, you’ll get on top of it. Lose your focus and you’ll sink. Where is your focus today?
Bill T.

* * *

Matthew 14:22-33
On March 26, 1862, while the Civil War was raging throughout the United States, Pastor Joseph Gilmore stood and preached at the First Baptist Church in Philadelphia. He wanted the people to turn their eyes off the war for a moment and look to Jesus. His sermon text was Psalm 23, the shepherd's psalm. His sermon became the title for the hymn“He Leadeth Me.”

 Gilmore’s own recollection on the hymn's formation: “I set out to give the people an exposition of the 23rd  Psalm, which I had given before on three or four occasions, but this time I did not get further than the words ‘he leadeth me.’ Psalm 23:2, ‘he leadeth me beside the still waters,’ became the theme of the song”

Three years later, while preaching at another church, he opened their hymn book and found his words set to music. To his surprise, his wife had sent the words to a Christian periodical and William Bradbury of Maine set the words to music.

The refrain reads of the hymn “He Leadeth Me” reads:

He leadeth me, He leadeth me,
By His own hand He leadeth me;
His faithful follower I would be,
For by His hand he leadeth me

Ron L.

* * *

Matthew 14:22-33
Water is a symbol of chaos and disorder. Actually, it’s not just a symbol. Water is chaos and disorder. Flash floods carry off cars, homes, and people. Tropical storms and hurricanes can destroy whole cities on the mainland or wipe out virtually every building and all services on an island. When God created order in the first verses of Genesis, the Spirit of God moves across the face of the waters. The words formless and void are Canaanite gods of chaos. It is God who controls the flood, opening and closing the vaults with a divine command, in contrast to the Greek version on the flood narrative, where the gods start the flood because of their annoyance at human beings, but find themselves unable to control or stop the flood once it gets started.

All this is preface to the extraordinary ability of Jesus to walk on water and still the storms. In Matthew’s version of the story, the disciples don’t ask, “Who is then that stills the wind and waves?” but proclaim, accurately, “Truly you are the Son of God.”,

Sometimes Peter is singled out as one who lacks faith. I didn’t see anyone else volunteer to get OUT of the boat during a storm!
Frank R.

 
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John Jamison
“There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars. On the earth, nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea. People will faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming on the world, for the heavenly bodies will be shaken. At that time they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” (vv. 25-28)

* * *
John Jamison
So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. (vv. 31-33)

Hello, everyone! (Let them respond.) Are you ready for today’s story? (Let them respond.) Great!

[If you are using the monitor or cuff.]

The Immediate Word

Katy Stenta
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For November 28, 2021:

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Of course, we never quite return to the way things were -- because we have been changed by good fortune or bad. As we make sense of a world that has known the 2020 pandemic there are several things that can’t be undone, regardless of medical advances and a return to whatever we choose to call normalcy. First, not all of us made it through. Some of those who survived are not returned to full health. More important, the damage done by uncivil discourse, the sharp exchanges by those holding radically different views cannot be easily undone.
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Jeremiah 33:14-16
The English poet Alexander Pope wrote, “Hope springs eternal in the human breast. Man never is, but always to be blest.” But where does man turn when hope dries up?”
Frank Ramirez
Of course, we never quite return to the way things were -- because we have been changed by good fortune or bad. As we make sense of a world that has known the 2020 pandemic there are several things that can’t be undone, regardless of medical advances and a return to whatever we choose to call normalcy. First, not all of us made it through. Some of those who survived are not returned to full health. More important, the damage done by uncivil discourse, the sharp exchanges by those holding radically different views cannot be easily undone.
Bill Thomas
Bonnie Bates
Mark Ellingsen
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Joel 2:21-27

The Village Shepherd

Janice B. Scott
Roly lay on the stone floor with his head on his paws. He wondered how much longer it was until it was time for food. Feeding time was the best time in the whole day, because then the humans came and rubbed his head and spoke to him and made a fuss of him.

StoryShare

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David O. Bales
Note: This was originally published in 2006.

Contents
What's Up This Week
A Story to Live By: "Signs" by David O. Bales
Sermon Starters: "Would We Recognize Him?" by Terry Cain
"Where Is The Church?" by Terry Cain


What's Up This Week
Peter Andrew Smith
David O. Bales
Contents
“The Feast Awaits” by Peter Andrew Smith
“Yes, Jesus Loves Me” by David O. Bales
“Preparing For Thanksgiving Day” by David O. Bales
 

The Feast Awaits
by Peter Andrew Smith
Joel 2:21-27

Margie sat on the edge of her bed. She hated this place and wished she was still in her own home. She should have fought the boys harder when they insisted she come here. She tried to hold the tears back, but they began to roll down her cheeks.

SermonStudio

Cynthia E. Cowen
Today we enter the season of Advent. The countdown has begun as we once more anticipate the celebration of the birth of Christ. Advent is a time to prepare, not just our homes but our hearts. What joy floods our hearts as we sing "Joy to the world, the Lord has come!" The Son of God entered our world so quietly -- no one, except those searching the heavens, saw the star that announced his birth. However, today's gospel tells us that when Christ comes again, it will be a like a hurricane or a tornado. The sun will be darkened, and the moon will not shine. Stars will fall from the sky.
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Some of you may be excited to learn that this morning's scripture lesson contains a benediction. "Now may our God and Father himself and our Lord Jesus direct our way to you. And may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, just as we abound in love for you. And may he so strengthen your hearts in holiness that you may be blameless before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with his saints" (vv. 11-13). That is a benediction.
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First Lesson: Jeremiah 33:14-16

Theme: Empires Come And Go -- God Lasts

Call To Worship (Psalm 25:14)
The friendship of the Lord is for those who fear him, and he makes his covenant known to them.

Collect

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